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NCAA Rules Committee Proposes Several Changes for 2015-16 Basketball Season

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Pace of play is the biggest focus, but there are a few other tweaks of interest.

Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

The NCAA has heard our grumbling about timeouts. And they're doing something about it.

Friday afternoon, the NCAA Rules Committee announced a host of rule changes recommended for 2015-16. While these are not fully approved yet (that won't happen until at least June 8, when the Playing Rules Oversight Panel meets), it's rare for the Oversight Panel to veto changes proposed by the Rules Committee.

Pace of play got the most attention, but it's by no means the only area where the Committee went to work. Here's a list, sorted by my opinion of them:

Obvious Fixes

  • Each team gets one fewer timeout (4, with 3 carrying over to the second half). That feeling of dread when the clock hits 2:00 and you realize there are seven timeouts left between the two teams? It won't be gone entirely, but it's not quite so depressing with only four or five.
  • If you call timeout within 30 seconds of a scheduled media timeout, that becomes the media timeout. College basketball's version of the NFL's touchdown-timeout-kickoff-timeout problem is gone.
  • Delays in returning from a timeout or substituting a player who fouls out may be penalized by a technical foul. First instance is a warning, but after that a technical foul may be assessed.
  • If a review for a possible flagrant foul catches somebody flopping, the officials can penalize him. The article didn't say what the penalty is, but I assume it's a technical foul. Right now, too many players try to draw the flagrant because there's no risk. (Looking in your direction, Indiana.)
  • No more technical fouls for dunking during warm-ups. This is a minor one that's been responsible for the occasional game that was not 0-0 at the opening tip. I've never understood why this wasn't permitted after the refs came out on the court.
  • The time permitted to substitute for a player who fouls out is reduced. No reason to give a free timeout for that, although some time is needed to figure out who to send in.
  • Coaches cannot call timeout while the ball is live. Less micromanaging is great news. And we all remember transition opportunities disappearing thanks to unwise timeout calls in the waning seconds.

Probably Good Ideas

  • Shot clock reduced to 30 seconds. This is the one getting the most attention, but it probably won't have as much impact as some others. Experimenting with it in the NIT this year showed little difference - an extra possession or two with minimal effect on efficiency. I don't think it helps much, but it's probably a net positive.
  • The restricted arc is increased to 4 feet. Anything that reduces charges is good news to me. This matches the restricted area used in the 2013 and 2015 NITs.
  • Shot clock violations are reviewable throughout the game. This runs counter to the pace-of-play tweaks, but reviewing whether a basket counts or not seems worth it. This was likely prompted by the Wisconsin-Kentucky semifinal.
  • The 10-second backcourt violation count isn't automatically reset by every whistle. The link didn't specify what the exceptions are (presumably a foul is one of them), but timeouts specifically were called out as one thing that does not reset the 10-count. That's good news. The big questions I have are whether a deflection out of bounds by the defense resets the count and whether inbounding into the backcourt is permitted from the frontcourt.
  • Class B technical fouls only result in one free throw instead of two. Class B techs are for minor issues like hanging on the rim or delay of game (technical fouls involving contact or more serious unsportsmanlike conduct are Class A). It makes sense to penalize them less severely. As a bonus, it will help publicize the rules on ejections due to technical fouls, which apparently confused just about everyone last year when Iowa's Aaron White picked up two technicals but (correctly!) was not ejected. (Two Class A technicals or any combination of three will get a player ejected; one of his was for hanging on the rim. Additionally, Class B technicals do not count toward the bonus or toward the five-foul limit for the player, while Class A techs do.)

Jury Is Still Out

  • The five-second closely guarded violation is removed. Maybe this is less necessary with the shorter shot clock, but some means of preventing stalling seems like a good idea, and this worked to force teams to move the ball a little bit if the defense wasn't sagging off. The biggest issue was that this was tough to enforce with any consistency at all; the range that counted as "closely guarded", the necessary motion to avoid a violation, and the speed of the count all varied too much.

In addition to the rule changes, the committee's announced points of emphasis are similar to those before the 2013-14 season: freedom of movement, illegal screens, block/charge calls, hand checking on the perimeter, and physical play in the post. As in 2013-14, that's probably going to lead to some ugly games early until either the players adjust to how games are being called or the refs let up on those points of emphasis; here's hoping it's the former.

What are your thoughts on the proposed changes?